Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg TexasWildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg TexasWildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg TexasWildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg TexasWildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg TexasWildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch Fredericksburg Texas

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Don and Beth Weeks’ alpacas welcome visitors to Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch on Center Point Road.

Revered for their fine fleece and other all-natural “byproducts,” Don and Beth Weeks’ alpacas welcome visitors to Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch on Center Point Road. Photo by Phil Houseal


Details:
Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch is open six days a week by appointment from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is no charge for the 45-minute tour, but they ask visitors to call before going out.
Don & Beth Weeks
5800 Center Point Rd
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-8293
Phone: 830-990-9125

Alpaca Products

by Phil Houseal
Oct 5, 2011

Years ago, if you wanted to see an alpaca, you had to travel 4000 miles via planes, trains, and autobuses to the slopes of Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains. Now you can drive six miles down Center Point Road to Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch where you will get a much more intimate introduction to this iconic animal.

Don Weeks, who with his wife, Beth, is owner of Wildflower Ridge Alpaca Ranch, rhapsodizes about the appeal of the alpaca.

“Here we have an animal that produces fiber, can be halter trained, qualifies for the agricultural tax exemption, and...,” he continued without pause, “...also makes wonderful poop.” Detecting no hint of jest in his expression, I followed up with a penetrating journalistic type question:

“Poop?”

Turns out the Weeks sell 16,000 pounds of the alpaca by-product every year. “Oh, yes,” he said. “We sell it by the bag, by the wheelbarrow, by the truckload. It is coveted: you don’t have to compost it, and many people use it on their sweet potatoes and lawns. We have a little flyer on it.”

Apparently the bathroom habits of the alpaca are highly refined. Alpacas use communal poop piles. A typical pasture has three, which the Weeks harvest twice a week. He pointed to a pair of alpaca inside a mall pen. “They have been in there for several hours without going, so I had to put in some fresh poop,” he explained. “Because they need to smell it. See, now they are going.”

Fascinating.

But the animals are better known for another product - their fleece. Lustrous, silky, and not waxy, it is coveted for its softness and for the fact it is hypoallergenic.

Beth Weeks spins, knits, and crochets the fiber from their animals into scarves, wraps, and hats. Half of the fiber is processed into yarn, which she uses to knit her items; the other half is sent to co-ops where it is batched according to color and fineness. In Beth’s yarn shop, yarn from each animal is kept separate and labeled. So you can order skeins from “Desparado” or “Tito Bandito.” The coarser fiber from the belly and legs is sent off to be woven into rugs.

Don and Beth are obviously enamored of their cuddly animals. What began in 2002 with a breeding pair, has grown into a herd of 24. The Weeks added a yarn store two years ago, and now open their ranch to the public six days a week, regularly conducting tours for mostly seniors and school groups.

“Of course this is a business, but our main focus is introduce people to alpacas.” Don Weeks reels off an informative and curious list of the positive traits of the alpaca:

- They are very docile

- They hum and cluck

- While llamas are used to guard livestock, alpacas run from predators.

- They eat orchard grass from Colorado (“It is higher in protein and a little wider than coastal, but a little more expensive.”)

- One animal costs only $225 per year to maintain, which includes shearing

You would think with the quantity of fertilizer collected, the place might exude a certain eau de caca. But as if reading my mind, Don Weeks mentioned one more endearing trait of the alpaca: “They have a nice body odor.”

There. Who couldn’t love an animal whose true value is measured in how many pounds of poop it produces per year?